Tony Awards Ratings Highest in 15 Years, Thanks to ‘Hamilton’

June 13, 2016, 4:08 PM UTC
2016 Tony Awards - Show
Photo by Theo Wargo—Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

UPDATE: A total of 8.7 million viewers tuned in to watch the 70th Annual Tony Awards on CBS on Sunday night, according to Nielsen, which represents the show’s highest viewership since 2001. The show’s 1.6 rating among adults aged 18 to 49 was also up 60% over last year’s telecast.

The 70th Annual Tony Awards saw a major ratings boost on Sunday—a night when the oft-ignored telecast tackled issues ranging from the Orlando tragedy to industry diversity while also celebrating Hamilton, one of most critically-acclaimed musicals in history.

Hamilton and its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, were the big winners of the evening, as the hip-hop musical won 11 Tonys from a record 16 nominations, falling just short of the all-time record for Tony wins (Mel Brooks’ The Producers took home 12 Tonys in 2001). Heading into Sunday evening’s telecast, it was thought that Hamilton‘s popularity, as well as a live performance from the musical’s cast, could help lift the Tony Awards’ sagging TV ratings.

Now, preliminary numbers released Monday morning show that was the case, as the 70th installment of the Tonys earned a 6.8 overnight rating in Nielsen’s metered markets, which represents a 33% bump from last year’s show. Overall viewership totals released Monday afternoon show that 8.7 million people tuned in to Sunday night’s broadcast, which is up from the 6.5 million people who watched the 2015 Tonys.

Deadline reports that Sunday night’s Tonys earned the highest ratings for the award show in 15 years, as the show’s telecast has seen its viewership numbers suffer year after year for more than a decade, including a record low of just over six million viewers in 2012. The Tonys’ ratings are considered relatively low for a major award show; Academy Awards this year drew more than 34 million viewers and that was an eight-year low for that telecast.

This year, the show’s host network, CBS, tapped rising late-night talent James Corden to host the Tonys. Corden’s The Late Late Show on CBS typically finishes second to NBC’s Late Night with Seth Myers in terms of TV ratings, but Corden has been finding regular success online with a string of viral hits from his “Carpool Karaoke” series of web videos. Leading up to this week’s Tonys, Corden filmed a Broadway-themed episode of “Carpool Karaoke” that featured Hamilton’s Miranda, along with other Tony nominees, that was viewed nearly eight million times on YouTube.

Sunday night’s show was also dedicated to the victims of this past weekend’s horrific mass shooting in Orlando, which killed 50 people and injured another 53 in a gay nightclub in Orlando. Corden opened this year’s Tony Awards with a somber monologue that addressed the tragedy, noting that “hate will never win.” A major theme of Sunday’s telecast was also the diversity of the nominees, as non-white actors made up roughly 30% of this year’s acting nominees, thanks especially to the slew of nominations for diverse shows such as Hamilton and The Color Purple. The Tonys played up the diversity of this year’s nominees with the Twitter hashtag “TonysSoDiverse”—a play on the disapproving hashtag, “OscarsSoWhite,” which called out the lack of diversity at this year’s Academy Awards.

Corden referenced the difference between last night’s Tonys and the most recent Academy Awards, telling viewers on Sunday: “Think of tonight as the Oscars but with diversity.”